For the CIEE Teach in Spain Professional program, we receive a monthly stipend of 900€ a month. We receive the same amount of money regardless of how many hours we work, so you don’t have to worry about being short funds during months when hours are scarce. Madrid is a very budget friendly city as well, so you can live quite well here on 900€. Here’s what you can expect for budgeting.
You can expect to pay anywhere from 350-550€ for rent depending on where you live in the city. A lot of places utilities will be covered in the rent, though if they aren’t you should expect to pay anywhere from 40-60€ (this will increase if you use the heat in winter). If you are under 26, your metro card will be 20€ a month, if you are over 26 the card will cost anywhere from 54.60 to 63.70€ depending on if you have classes in the B1 area. For groceries, I think it is reasonable to spend 15-30€ a week depending on what you buy. You can cut costs on groceries by scouting out the bargains and splitting cost of shared items with roommates. You have two options for a phone plan: with data or a pay as you go phone. If you choose to have data, it will cost 20€ a month. I chose pay as you go and it has saved me a lot of money, however there are plenty of times I wish I could use google maps or check my email without wifi.
This means you can expect to spend around 490- 783€ on the essentials. On average, it will probably be closer to 550-600€, so that will leave you with around 300-350€ left on your stipend. If you budget carefully, this can go very far. It really depends on the lifestyle you want, if you want to go out often you may need to dip into your savings more often.
I recommend enjoying the nightlife Madrid has to offer, but sparingly as it can get expensive staying out until the metro starts running again. Depending on where you go and what you drink, a night out could be affordable or pricey. A beer will cost anywhere from a 1.25-3€, a glass of wine €2-€3. If you are buying cocktails expect to spend at least 5- 7€. My personal advice: if tapa hopping is your goal stick to cañas, very small glasses of beer. They normally are about a 1.25€ and despite being the cheapest option you still will get the same size of tapas with it, so it’s the most cost-efficient choice of beverage. If traveling is your prerogative, I recommend going out a little less so you can save more of your stipend each month.
Budgeting for Trips
The #1 piece of advice I can offer on traveling is be flexible. Be open to several different destinations. Maybe your heart is set on Paris but the flights to Barcelona are more budget friendly that weekend. Be willing to leave early in the morning or late at night, those tend to be the cheaper flights. Or be open to other options for transportation. For example, I am going to Lisbon over Easter, but the cheapest flight I could find gets me there Wednesday night. I am going to take the late-night bus and get there on Thursday instead. While I would prefer to fly, the bus is cheaper and this way I don’t have to pay for an extra night at the Airbnb.
I’ve had a lot of success using a website called ‘Skyscanner’ when finding cheap flights. You can input ‘Madrid’ as your departure city and then search by weekend, it will show in order of the cheapest flights. Be sure to check the airlines though, some should be avoided. For example, I’ve heard nothing but bad things about Ryanair, so even though they have a 30€ roundtrip to Dublin I would advise you to avoid using them. Another good idea is asking your students. It’s a great conversation starter and I have found a lot of my travel savvy students know which days flights are the cheapest. Another way to know about deals is joining the airline’s mailing list. Iberia has a program that offers cheap flights if you are 30 or younger, I recommend signing up for this as they will send you emails with promotions.
For cheap accommodations, I really must recommend Airbnb. I always search for hotels and hostels when I travel, but they are almost always cheaper rooms on Airbnb. Another plus is they have a kitchen. You can save a lot of money cooking while you travel, even if it is just one meal a day. When eating out, research the restaurants. Spain tends to be pretty safe as far as prices go, but other places it can be more confusing. You might go out to eat in Rome and expect to pay €20 for a meal and it turns out to be much more expensive. Try to have an idea of the prices of food before you go into a restaurant.
You can make that leftover 300-350€ go very far when traveling. If you want to be traveling a lot however, I recommend having more money saved before starting the program. If you want to go to Paris one weekend and Rome the next, you are not going to be able to pay for everything on an English teacher’s salary. Traveling around Spain and Portugal is fine, smaller cities are quite affordable, but if you dream of visiting all the big European cities while you are here, plan to save more money in advance.
Remember also that each program has a long break, either two weeks over Christmas or a month in August. Personally, I think it’s much more time and money efficient to do big trips outside of Spain then. For example, I have found fights to Paris for about 120€ roundtrip, which is a good deal until you realize you will be leaving late Friday night and returning early Sunday morning. That means you will have to buy two nights’ accommodation when you only have 24 hours in the city. Maybe save that money for when you’ll have more time to travel and take some day trips to satisfy the travel bug in the meantime.
It is important to budget, but always remember the experiences are important. On a travel forum, I once saw a quote that has really stuck with me “You will make back the money, but you won’t make back the time.” Be careful with your money, but also remember that this may be you only chance to live in Madrid. Enjoy life. Eat the tapas. Maybe that flight to Morocco is a bit more money than you would like to spend, but remember it’s going to be so much more expensive to fly there once you are back in the States. Don’t leave Spain wishing you had done more. You won’t look back on this time, fondly remembering how much money you saved.